Layne is an active freelance writer. She enjoys staying up to date on trends, media, and emerging topics.
Good Excuses for Missing Work
People need a break every now and then. Between the sick time, vacation time/paid time off, and holidays, no matter what privileges we are given as employees, calling out of work or missing work comes with feelings of guilt or worry about being fired—at least this is true for employees working in the United States.
The U.S. is not known for a healthy work-life balance . . . there's even a Wikipedia entry on it. According to an article on Axios.com, 11% of U.S. employees work 50 or more hours a week and people spend more than 40% of their day on their job. It's no wonder people need a break.
So, if you're looking to take a same-day break or vacation, call out sick, and need to make a case for yourself, here are 35 good reasons to miss work. Don't fake sick or look for a believable reason, find the reason you deserve time off. Once you do, consider Slack, text, email, or calling in to let your employer know why you're missing work or why you have to leave work early. Also consider doing the following:
- Be honest: It's okay to need a mental health day.
- Be believable: Don't make up an extravagant story, keep it simple.
- Document it: The more proof the better. Don't have a doctor's note? Forward your appointment email.
- Stay off social media: Enjoy your day off but don't publicly broadcast your beach day.
Most Believable/Common Reasons to Call Out
General health check, physical therapy, or therapy and counseling . . . getting things on the calendar these days is difficult. So long as you let your employer know that you have an appointment you cannot reschedule, they really shouldn't pry. Some employers are strict and you might want to provide documentation. Let them know the appointment was last minute.
Fevers are the hallmark of a bacterial or virus-related illness, and nowadays (with the pandemic/COVID-19-coronavirus), no one wants to take that chance. If you have to go in to work but don't want to risk getting other employees sick, the safe thing to do is let your employer know that you're running a fever.
3. Plumbing Issue
Plumbing issues are gross and no one is going to tell you to leave it alone and let your apartment or house get flooded with sewage . . . or whatever.
4. Gas Leak
Gas leaks are dangerous, and whereas a plumbing leak can cause structural damage and create inhospitable conditions, a gas leak can cause destruction and even death. It's no joking matter and no one is going to challenge that.
5. Sick Kid
It would be very prying for someone to request your kid's medical records. It's hard enough being a parent. Letting your employer know that your child is sick and you have to care for them is a sure way to get out of work.
6. Sick Pet or Pet Emergency
Let's hope your employer is as much of an animal lover as you are. If your pet needs to go to emergency or is throwing up all over the house or having explosive poops everywhere, you need to stay home and care for them. It would be devastating to lose your best friend.
7. Missing Pet
A missing pet is just as bad as a sick pet, if not even more distressing. If your dog or cat ran away and you don't know where to begin, just know it's going to be a long, involving search. Letting your employer know that time is of the essence and you need to try to find your pet. Looking for a lost pet will occupy your entire day. Good luck finding them.
8. Babysitter Canceled/Loss of Child Care
Being a working parent is tricky, this is especially true of historical times like in a pandemic. If you don't have childcare and your young kids are not in school or need extra assistance to be in school, there's really nothing you can do but take a day off from work. This requires less documentation/proof than other reasons for calling out. Your boss should be understanding.
9. Wifi/Internet Issues
It's harder than ever to go work some place public and accessing the office isn't available to everyone, so having things go wrong like your wifi dropping and not knowing why/needing it diagnosed is a big problem impeding work flow. You can always offer to make up the work day, of course, this applies to anyone who does computer work or works online/works from home.
10. Family Emergency
Family emergencies . . . there are many—this can be anything from helping your grandmother change nursing homes to helping your sister take your niece to emergency for a broken arm. Maybe your parents need help with a delivery at home and aren't of a physical capacity to move the thing/object that is getting delivered. You need to help them, you really do.
11. DMV Appointment
No one messes with the DMV and no one wants to go to the DMV; if you work at the DMV, well, choose from the other items on this list. The DMV is more intimidating than a doctor's appointment.
Injuries, if you can document them too, are definitely convincing. It can be anything from a head injury, to a sprained ankle, to a sprained finger, to a bruised tailbone (the one you got chasing your son while playing baseball in the yard). Injuries call for a day off and then some.
13. Home Repair/Apartment Repair
You can't do work when the roofers are pounding over your head and you can't do work when your landlord decides to re-floor your apartment. Whatever it is that is going on outside—jackhammers, window repairs, pipe issues, home repair or apartment repair, is another big reason you can't work today. (You need to let people in to access your house or simply can't hear anyone on the Zoom call.)
14. Jury Duty
Jury duty—it's a part of life. If you get called in for jury duty, well, you're off the hook.
What’s the Best Excuse You’ve Used to Call in Sick?
15. Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is way different from just being sick. To most, food poisoning means bouts of vomiting and diarrhea and just nastiness all around. No one is going to question you about this and in most cases, you don't go to the doctor's for it. Stock up on the Gatorade.
16. Religious Event/Day/Holiday
Whatever your religion—a religious event or day—especially those not formally recognized as a U.S. holiday, is a sure way to get out of work. After all, challenging an individual's religious freedom can move towards true legal issues. Any solid employer will let you take a day or days off according to your individual needs and religious affiliation.
17. Getting Stranded
Was your flight canceled or did your car break down? Did the train you needed to catch across the state break down? Travel interruptions and getting stranded are a sure way to miss work, especially when you can't make it home.
18. Lost Keys, Wallet, Phone
Your phone/keys/wallet being lost is a big deal. Everyone has been there. Nowadays, our phone has so much personal and private information, losing it puts you at risk of getting your identity stolen. You have to find it, and you can't come to work until you do.
19. You Witnessed a Crime
So you witnessed a crime, you need to report it, you don't know how long that is going to take. No one wants to get involved in that and are thankful they aren't in your shoes . . . so many questions.
20. Stomach Flu
The stomach flu, unlike food poisoning, is contagious and much more difficult to pinpoint. Did it come from your kids? From your spouse? From your gym? Tracing the stomach flu back to the source is impossible, but one thing is for sure, no one at your work wants it. Stay home.
21. Mental Health Day
Mental health is now being embraced more widely as a necessary part of general health and wellness. The days of people suffering from depression, anxiety, and the sort and feeling the need to hide it from employers are diminishing. If you need a mental health day, declare it. There are numerous reasons why you would need a day for yourself.
If you or a family member suddenly have to move–eviction, natural disaster, etc., you might need to help them. Explain to your employer that it is sudden and a true emergency. This goes for evacuations due to natural disasters—fires, flooding, etc.
23. Root Canal or Dental Issues
Anyone who has struggled with tooth issues knows how painful a cavity or exposed nerve can be. Say you have to go to the dentist for an emergency root canal. Whatever procedure ended up happening, well, that's left up to your dentist to decide.
24. Software or Hardware Malfunction
You can't work if your equipment breaks. You also can't just go out and buy a 2,000 computer to keep working. Your company will likely need you to take your device in for servicing. Decide what day that's going to need to happen finally—your computer battery may have been slowly diminishing for a while now.
25. Donating Blood
When you need to step up and donate blood, the moment calls. Let your employer know how important this is to you, for various reasons, too. Maybe someone in your family benefits from the generosity of donors. You might need to rest after you donate.
26. School and Class Schedule Conflict
Whether it's that you're in a master's program or your kids are remote learning, school often overrides the 9-5. A supportive employer will understand that while they want to keep you as an employee, they should support your ambitions and life goals as well. Finals week? Kids need help setting up for class? Got it.
27. Medical Test
Scheduling a medical test these days can be tricky and the wait is long. If your doctor calls you last minute and wants you in, they want you in. Maybe it's not even you but your grandparent or parent that you are taking in for a test. That's fine, let your employer know. This might include an optometry visit, allergy testing, blood test, ect.
28. New Baby in the Family
Did your sister have a baby or your neighbor or friend have a new baby? Wow, you should be there! Don't miss out. No one can predict a baby's arrival.
29. Car Trouble or Accident
If you're not commuting into work but your vehicle broke down, this is still a headache and an emergency if you have to get to and from a given place or have kids to take care of. Car problems are a bummer. Maybe you got into an accident? That's not fun either.
A death of a family member, friend, relative, neighbor, and so forth is a very good reason to miss work as is a funeral. You shouldn't have to go through the process of arranging for bereavement leave and providing a death certificate if it is a scheduled ceremony.
31. Relative's Birthday
Celebrating a grandmother or grandfather's birthday or a great grandmother or great grandfather's birthday is definitely a reason to take some time off. You want to honor your family members, and work should not get in the way! Maybe it's your kid's birthday day—you deserve to celebrate.
Allergies are sketchy because they could be seasonal or they could be related to a chronic condition—contact allergies or something immune-related. You don't have to dig into the details . . . sneezing, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing or worse. Take time off!
33. House Emergency
The house emergency excuse is non-specific and totally valid. Is your bedroom flooding, did a wall catch on fire, is your kid sick with a virus, or did your dog chew through dry wall? Was your house burglarized? So much can happen with a house emergency. Most people out of respect won't ask.
Most people who have had a migraine know how bad they are. You really can't get work done. Most people who haven't had a migraine don't know how bad they are but aren't going to question it. A migraine can strike at any time for any reason. So call in sick and rest.
35. Something "Unexpected"
Something unexpected is the most mysterious of them all! There's not much more that can be said to that. Was it an emergency pet appointment? Having to take a family member somewhere? Menstrual cramps? Meet with a lawyer? Not feeling well? A mystery delivery or pickup? Something unexpected is the most flexible and most cryptic of them all.
How to Call Out Sick
As always, there are some rules to follow:
- Don't lie: one of these 35 reasons should be true and work for you
- Don't ruin your coworkers' day: calling out on a day when you know things are bad and your company is short staffed is not going to make you the most popular coworker.
- Don't give too much detail: too much detail behind your excuse sounds untruthful
- Don't fake cry: pretending is not cool; it's one degree away from lying
- Do contact the appropriate parties: let your manager, boss, or HR know as far in advance as possible
- Do be authentic: it's okay to say you feel badly about calling out
- Do provide documentation: if you can, give proof where it's due
- Don't rub it in: your coworkers will not be stoked that your migraine involves a pedicure and a massage while they deal with the presentation you didn't want to present
- Do email, text, call: don't just text and think that will work; always pick the best and most efficient route and the highest level of contact you need to get the point across
- Do confirm: make sure your absence has been acknowledged and confirmed
- Do avoid bad excuses: this one goes without saying, don't say something elaborate like you think you won the lottery, you can't stop hiccuping, you couldn't sleep . . . you know.
Worst Excuses for Getting Out of Work
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2020 Layne Holmes
Layne Holmes (author) from Bend, Oregon on August 30, 2020:
I agree in that people should be honest and also understand they are allowed a level of privacy in their matters. Covid-19 has definitely made that so much more of a reality! People would rather one stay home than risk getting others sick. I agree as well people need evacuation time for natural disasters. I hope people looking at this list can find something that resonates. Usually when we are at that point of need time off whether it's feeling unwell, stressed, tired, exhausted . . . it was from an accumulation of one of the reasons above!!! Good to prioritize self first.
Layne Holmes (author) from Bend, Oregon on August 30, 2020:
Love the story you shared. I agree honesty is always best! When we start to overthink it, that usually tells us there's prob a valid reason for the request! In your case, sounded like a stressful scenario! Glad it worked out.
Lora Hollings on August 29, 2020:
These are all very good reasons to be excused from work. But as you say, don't give too much detail or pretend. Honesty is the best policy. And I think mental health is now more widely accepted as an excuse than it was a decade ago especially with the new reality of covid-19. And maybe there should be a weather emergency as well, in light of Hurricane Laura, not only before it happens but after such a devastating storm as people have to deal with their house flooding or other damage, and its many consequences too. You did an excellent and thorough job of covering this topic that certainly can be of great help to many, Layne. The videos add much as well. Thanks for sharing!
Liz Westwood from UK on August 29, 2020:
I laughed at your tip to make it believable. It reminded me of a dilemma we had a few years back when we needed to take our kids out of school to get a flight the day before the holidays. It wasn't a problem when we booked it, but then the school changed the rules so that days off were not allowed for certain year groups. We debated throwing a sicky, but realised that with an early flight, a phone call to school from the airport saying that two children were ill, risked a flight announcement in the background, a sure give away. So we opted for honesty as the best policy.i was impressed by your detailed list of options for a day off work. It is well thought out and detailed.